Imagine you’re walking down high street and you see a new store. Its windows are covered so people walking by can’t see what is inside. Over the door there is an interesting looking ad so you decide that it warrants a look and you open the door and walk in.
Doorman: Hi, there! Do you want to apply to come into our store?
Doorman: Yes, we only let a limited number in per day. If you give me your email address we can set things in motion. It usually takes only a few minutes if there are available slots.
You: Ok, let’s try it.
Doorman: How about you bring 3 friends with you?
You: What? I’m just strolling here on my own, if I had had friends with me, they would have joined me.
Doorman: I am afraid I must insist. You could send them an invitation by email. It will soften our management in actually permitting you to come into our store!
You: And then what? We wait for them to arrive?
Doorman: No no, you just wait until we hear from management about your application.
You: Application? I just wanted to browse through your store!
Doorman: It usually only takes a few minutes. If there is space. If not, we’ll let you know when you can come back.
You: Come back?
What would you do? Spam your friends? You don’t even know whether the store has stuff that you would like to share with them. Which friends anyway, how can you tell which friends you invite when you don’t know what is there?
Let’s say you go through with it. You may be creative with the email addresses you supply just to give your friends a break. You apply and for a stroke of luck you are allowed right in.
Now you find something that you know a certain friend wants to see. You would like to share that with them. So you send them a message going: You should see this! And before they can, they need to have the same conversation with that same doorman. If I see something that I like but I would like to run it by my family before I do, same story.
So by now you’re thinking I fabricated this UX horror story. But the sad part is that I didn’t. It’s a true story. This is an actual web store.
What is the rationale behind a user experience like this? Sure, they would like to spread the message and the cheapest way to do that is by word of mouth. But you cannot force word of mouth. People don’t recommend something to their friends that they don’t know what is. And you’re barring them from finding out! Show people what you are about. If they like it they will share and the word of mouth will bring you visitors.
I also don’t get the rationale behind selling stuff on the web and not wanting everybody to see. Especially for a website that advertises on Facebook, that’s how I stumbled upon them to begin with. If you don’t want customers then the easiest way to avoid that is by not advertising. Perhaps this is a ‘create a line outside your club’ mentality? Good thing though: They’re doing a great job keeping us out 😉 Success!
This is not the first time I run into something like this and I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience. So now I’m collecting examples. If you would like to share you can in a comment below or you can connect via twitter (@maggadora) if you don’t want to share publicly. Also, if you want to experience the above conversation, just let me know and I’ll send you the link.